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Five keys to Redskins-Bears--Can they trust Forbath?

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Five keys to Redskins-Bears--Can they trust Forbath?

Five game keys plus a Bears-Redskins prediction:

1. The Redskins need to be very afraid of kick returner Devin Hester but the numbers suggest that the Bears’ special teams may be slowing him down themselves. Yes, Hester is averaging over 30 yards per return but he hasn’t been impressive in the “what have you done lately” department. In the Bears’ first two games Hester returned six kickoffs and averaged 46.6 yards a pop. Since then he has 13 kickoff returns and an average of a more pedestrian 22.7 per return. The Bears have been hit hard with injuries and, as often happens in the NFL, the effects have trickled down to their special teams.

2. It was good to see Robert Griffin III running well and picking up some big chunks of yardage against the Cowboys and the Redskins hope he will keep it up on Sunday against Chicago. However, Griffin having a big day on the ground is not necessarily a key to victory. The game in Dallas marked the eighth time in his career that Griffin has rushed for 60 yards or more. The Redskins’ record in those games is 4-4.

3. The Redskins have only run up the middle 19 times this year but those runs have been productive plays. They average 9.6 yards per play when going up the gut. Coincidentally, there have been 19 rushing plays up the middle against the Bears’ defense this year. Chicago has give up an average of 5.7 yards on those plays, 28th in the NFL. Sending Alfred Morris into the middle of the line really isn’t the Redskins’ style but they might find that area to be a fertile hunting ground on Sunday. Perhaps they could give Darrel Young a few carries on quick hitters in the middle as well.

4. DeAngelo Hall was not covering Dez Bryant exclusively Sunday night just like he wasn’t on Calvin Johnson every play during the Lions game. But he was the guy who was primarily responsible for containing Johnson (7 rec., 115 yds., 1 TD) and shutting down Bryant (5/36/0). It will be the same situation with Hall on Monday when he will cover Brandon Marshall most of the time. If Hall again comes up big then the game may come down to how well Josh Wilson, David Amerson (assuming he plays) and the rest of the secondary do against wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, tight end Martellus Bennett, and running back Matt Forte.

5. It’s probably too early to really worry about Kai Forbath, especially after he set such a high standard for himself last year by making his first 17 field goal attempts. But since then, going back to the 2012 season finale, he has hit on just three of six. Perhaps it’s not fair to be too hard on him for a 49-yard miss in Dallas; that’s about a 50-50 shot. But his miss in the season opener was from 40 and he missed his last attempt of 2012 against Dallas from 37. Again, it’s not panic time over Forbath just yet. But are you going to be able to watch if he lines up for, say, a 44-yarder with the game on line?

I think that Forbath will line up for that field goal with the outcome of a back-and-forth contest on the line. Does he make it?

Redskins 31, Bears 30

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No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

MOBILE -- Jay Gruden is making jokes about Kirk Cousins again, and that's good news for Redskins fans that worried about a fracture between coach and quarterback. 

It all started in the weeks following the Redskins dreadful Week 17 loss to the Giants as Gruden and Cousins seemed to be throwing slight jabs at one another.

Gruden, in his end of year press conference, explained that while Cousins "showed flashes" in 2017, when the team goes 7-9, the coach can't say any player was outstanding: 

You know when you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ You know there’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent when he played was Pro Bowl type, Brandon when he was healthy was Pro Bowl type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know we’re 7-9. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns I believe. So, I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.

Cousins, in his year-end radio appearance with 106.7 the Fan, explained that he wants the team to do better but doesn't think the 7-9 record should fall on his shoulders alone. (Quote via Washington Post)

What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.

Both comments were fairly innocuous, but also clearly at odds. Combine that dialogue with the undercurrent of another offseason contract negotiation, and it seemed things between coach and quarterback weren't quite right. 

On Tuesday, speaking at the Senior Bowl, Gruden cleared the air. Asked directly about tension between he and Cousins, the coach was blunt. 

"No." 

Gruden went on to explain his answer about Cousins 2017 play, the now infamous 7-9 line.

"When I say 7-9, if I say one player played great that means I'm saying everybody else was not very good," the coach explained (full video above). "I think we all have to stick together, we all have to improve from a 7-9 season, coaches, players, everybody."

Cousins was good in 2017, throwing for more than 4,000 passing yards for the third straight season. He also showed that he can produce offensively without a great supporting cast, as injuries robbed the Redskins of many of their best passing game threats and seriously damaged the offensive line. 

The quarterback did play two terrible games in the last month of the season, however, including a three interception stinker in the Week 17 finale.

It's possible that Gruden had that fresh in his mind when he spoke in early January, and with the benefit of a little time, his assessment mellowed by late January. 

Either way, Gruden joked about Cousins deserving a vacation, and even said the QB needs a tan. Gruden often uses humor to defuse touchy situations with Redskins players, and maybe he just did it again. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins fans want Zach Brown back. Bad. And for weeks there had been no news about contract talks between Washington and Brown. 

Now that's changed.

"We've been talking to his agent," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said on Tuesday. 

Gruden, speaking from the Senior Bowl, explained that the team would like Brown back in 2018 but Washington also understands that the linebacker might want to explore the free agent market. 

"It’s a process," Gruden said (full video above). "These guys have a chance to be a free agent, they had a good year and they want to check what the market is sometimes. If we can get them before they get to free agency, great, but if not, the bidding wars will begin."

For Brown, free agency will look different in 2018 than it did last season when he signed a one-year. bargain deal with the Redskins. 

Prior to injuries forcing him to miss the final three games of the season, Brown led the NFL in tackles. For two straight years, 2016 in Buffalo and 2017 in Washington, Brown has proved to be a tackling machine and arguably the fastest linebacker in the NFL. Brown also signed new representation last offseason, Jason and Michael Katz of CSE Football, and should Brown hit the free agent market the Katz brothers will aggresively market their client. 

Washington Senior Vice President of Football Operations Eric Schaeffer will handle the contract discussions for Washington, and is known as a shrewd negotiator. 

Like many business deals, this will come down to money. Brown established himself as a fit in Washington, both on the field and in the locker room. Interior linebackers do not command top dollar like pass rushers do, but Brown will still expect to be compensated appropriately. 

Further complicating matters for Washington, the Redskins only have Josh Harvery-Clemmons, Zach Vigil and Martrell Speight under contract for 2018. 

It's too early to predict what "it's a process" means from Jay Gruden, but Redskins fans should draw some encouragement that talks have begun with Brown. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!